"FLOWERS OF FRANCE"

DECORATION POEM FOR SOLDIERS' GRAVES, TOURS, FRANCE, MAY 30, 1918

Flowers of France in the Spring,
Your growth is a beautiful thing;
But give us your fragrance and bloom,
Yea, give us your lives in truth,
Give us your sweetness and grace
To brighten the resting-place
Of the flower of manhood and youth,
Gone into the dust of the tomb.

This is the vast stupendous hour of Time,
When nothing counts but sacrifice and faith,
Service and self-forgetfulness. Sublime
And awful are these moments charged with death
And red with slaughter. Yet God's purpose thrives
In all this holocaust of human lives.

I say God's purpose thrives. Just in the measure
That men have flung away their lust for gain,
Stopped in their mad pursuit of worldly pleasure,
And boldly faced unprecedented pain
And dangers, without thinking of the cost,
So thrives God's purpose in the holocaust.

Death is a little thing: all men must die;
But when ideals die, God grieves in Heaven.
Therefore I think it was the reason why
This Armageddon to the world was given.
The Soul of man, forgetful of its birth,
Was losing sight of everything but earth.

Up from these many million graves shall spring
A shining harvest for the coming race.
An Army of Invisibles shall bring
A glorified lost faith back to its place.
And men shall know there is a higher goal
Than earthly triumphs for the human soul.

They are not dead--they are not dead, I say,
These men whose mortal forms are in the sod.
A grand Advance-Guard marching on its way,
Their Souls move upwards to salute their God!
While to their comrades who are in the strife
They cry, "Fight on! Death is the dawn of life."

We had forgotten all the depth and beauty
And lofty purport of that old true word
Deplaced by pleasure--that old good word duty.
Now by its meaning is the whole world stirred.
These men died for it; for it, now, we give,
And sacrifice, and serve, and toil, and live.

From out our hearts had gone a high devotion
For anything. It took a mighty wrath
Against great evil to wake strong emotion,
And put us back upon the righteous path.
It took a mingled stream of tears and blood
To cut the channel through to Brotherhood.

That word meant nothing on our lips in peace:
We had despoiled it by our castes and classes.
But when this savage carnage finds surcease
A new ideal will unite the masses.
And there shall be True Brotherhood with men--
The Christly Spirit stirring earth again.

For this our men have suffered, fought, and died.
And we who can but dimly see the end
Are guarded by their spirits glorified,
Who help us on our way, while they ascend.
They are not dead--they are not dead, I say,
These men whose graves we decorate to-day.

America and France walk hand in hand;
As one, their hearts beat through the coming years:
One is the aim and purpose of each land,
Baptised with holy water of their tears.
To-day they worship with one faith, and know
Grief's first Communion in God's House of Woe.

Great Liberty, the Goddess at our gates,
And great Jeanne d'Arc, are fused into one soul:
A host of Angels on that soul awaits
To lead it up to triumph at the goal.
Along the path of Victory they tread,
Moves the majestic cortège of our dead.

Flowers of France in the Spring,
Your growth is a beautiful thing;
But give us your fragrance and bloom--
Yea, give us your lives in truth,
Give us your sweetness and grace
To brighten the resting-place
Of the flower of manhood and youth,
Gone into the dust of the tomb.

Hello, Boys! by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
London: Gay and Hancock, 1919.


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